New public housing opens in Galveston

July 15, 2011 4:06:22 PM PDT
It has been one long road to recovery for hundreds of Hurricane Ike victims. Believe it or not, nearly three years after the storm, there are many families still looking for a place they can call home. That long wait ended Friday for dozens of families.

This is the new face of public housing. And it's where dozens displaced by Hurricane Ike can now move in.

Helen Roberson is 80 years old. Hurricane Ike forced her out of her home of 18 years. She's lived in an apartment, temporarily, since 2008.

For Roberson and her bird, Pretty Boy, the 11th floor unit is comfortable. But Friday she got the keys to her new, permanent home, rebuilt after the storm.

"It would be better because sometimes we have to walk down the stairs when the elevator breaks down. That's hard on me," Roberson said.

"This is our first bringing back of the displaced residents," said Justin Herter of the Galveston Housing Authority.

Herter showed us the new units. There are 40 of them. Each is 639 square feet. Equipped with kitchen appliances, porches, a shared courtyard and no stairs. That's good news for Roberson. Herter acknowledged the long road ahead.

"We had 569 families displaced from Ike," he said.

And clearly this won't hold all of them. But it's a start. One that Roberson can finally get excited about.

"There's so much I got to do. Buy a washing machine and a dryer," she said.

This is just the first phase of rebuilding for those residents displaced by Ike.

Former Housing Authority Commissioner Ray Lewis says the new model will mean hundreds displaced by the 2008 storm will have to wait even longer for more permanent homes, while the Housing Authority jumps over federal hurdles -- all on a developer's timeline.

But with Washington watching, Galveston's model could be the on the cutting edge of public housing. It'll just take time.

A big announcement on Monday as the Galveston Housing Authority will announce the developer that will take on the next steps in restoring public housing for even more families displaced by Ike.

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